I was doing some research on the question of the impact of Christian ideas on other religions when the research into Hinduism revealed an attitude by Hindus that Christians were amateurs when it comes to religion. To see if there was any substance to this I ordered what was available from my library on the scriptures of Hinduism.
I now have “The Bhagavad Gita” in front of me and have read the first chapters so far.
I already know from the Bible that what you get from religious scriptures depends a great deal on what you expect from it. My approach in reading the Bible was to see if I could find anything of value and meaning there – thus I was actually looking for ways to make what it said meaningful to me.
With that awareness I can evaluate my own reading of the Bhagavad Gita. If I am looking for ways to simply be done with it, I would tend to be repelled by the way in which it downplays the meaning and value of life’s experiences and action. If, however, I were to seek the greatest meaning I can find in the text then I would focus on a few passages which suggest a different understanding of what is being explained… such as when Krishna says…
Considering your dharma, you should not vacillate. For a warrior, nothing is higher than a war against evil. The warrior confronted with such a war should be pleased, Arjuna, for it comes as an open gate to heaven. But if you do not participate in this battle against evil, you will incur sin, violating your dharma and your honor.
This suggest that we understand the dismissal of the value of actions and the consequences in most of the text to being aimed at the superficial things such as the possible results, and instead to be more concerned with the meaning of our choices according to our ideals. That is something on which I am utterly in tune with.
On the other hand, much of what Krishna says is founded on the premise of reincarnation, about which I am not in the least bit approving. That by itself has me doubting that this religion is one conducive to greater psychological health and human achievement. But wait, there is worse yet to be found in this text in the explanations of the author…
Here the Gita refers to the doctrine of karma, one of the basic teachings in all Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Karma literally means deed or action: what is sometimes called the “law of karma” refers to an underlying law of cause and effect that is seen to permeate all existence. The idea is that every action leads to a reasonable result – and, consequently, that everything that happens can be traced to something done in the past. Actions determine destiny: this is the basic idea of karma. If anything happens to us that is truly good, we must have done something in the past to deserve it; if something ill befalls us, then at some time in the past we did something that was not so meritorious. This is a basic moral law that all traditions share: the belief that we reap what we sow.
Do we find something like this in the Bible? Yes and no. There is a book of the Bible, “Job,” devoted the topic." There we find a scathing critique of this idea that everything which happens is deserved – a refutation of the idea that earthly success and well being are something we have earned and to which we are entitled. Instead we find that all is subject to the will and providence of God for a higher purpose, and sometimes the innocent will suffer in order to serve that purpose.
So far… this idea that the Christians are the amateurs is not something which I am finding much justification for. The Christian view looks both healthier and more promising to me. To be sure we believe in an ultimate Justice to be found eventually in the arms of a loving creator. But before that ultimate end we see little reason to believe that victims deserve their suffering or that victors deserve any smug satisfaction.